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It's a Bird. It's a Plane

After years of observing albatrosses on the high seas, WHOI oceanographer Phil Richardson combined his interests in waves, sailing, flying, and physics to figure how the large seabirds extract energy from the wind to keep aloft without flapping their wings—a process called "dynamic soaring." In his research, he found that radio-controlled glider pilots exploit a similar technique. That led him to propose building an unmanned aerial vehicle that could use dynamic soaring to autonomously survey large areas of the ocean to locate sailors, monitor currents, or protect harbors. This photo montage illustrates the dream of a robotic albatross. (Photo montage courtesy of Phil Richardson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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